France had already advanced to the group stage at the back of wins in their first two matches against Norway and South Korea but for the first time in their Women's World Cup history, France won all the three of their group matches as they beat Nigeria 1-0 at the Roazhon Park, Rennis on Monday night.
Nigeria did not make it easy for France though. For 78 minutes of the match, the hosts went kept at bay by an astute defensive performance from Nigeria.
The best of the African nations at the World Cup, Nigeria showed why they are so dominant in their continent with an excellent defensive performance against a flowy French side.
However, that spirit was not enough as a 79th minute penalty from Wendie Renard proved to be enough for the French to take the match away. Nigeria never threatened the French goal and their best chance to get a point was to hold France but with Ngozi Ebere taking down Viviane Asseyi in the box, the resulting penalty kick proved to be very costly.
In the other match of the group that happened parallel to Nigeria vs France, Norway beat South Korea 2-1 to seal the second spot in Group A.
South Korea gave a penalty early on in each half of the match and Caroline Graham-Hansem and Isabell Herlovsen stepped to score them both to give Norway a winning lead.
South Korea did score their only World Cup goal through Yeo Minji but it was never going to be enough for them to beat Norway.
With the results, France ended up as group toppers while Norway qualified for the Round of 16 six points from three games. Nigeria, with three points in three matches, wait to know their fate. They are in line to qualify as one of the four best third-placed teams.
RENARD - THE DIFFERENCE
Wendie Renard has been having a very eventful World Cup so far. She scored a brace in their tournament opener against South Korea, then scored a terrible own goal against Norway and in the third match, she netted a controversial penalty to give France the win.
France played their flowy and quick-passing football for the entirety of the match against Nigeria and created a number of chances even though the Nigerian defence let them have only four shots on target out of the 22 attempts.
France had 72 per cent of the ball possession compared to only 28 per cent with Nigeria yet France struggled to trouble Nigeria's 18-year-old goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie.
For most part of the match Nnadozie was strong and assuring at the goal until one mistake in the 78th minute.
The referee awarded the penalty to France after checking Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for Ebere's foul on Asseyi. Ebere was shown a second yellow and a red and Renard stepped up to take the penalty. The referee informed Nnadozie of the infraction rule before the penalty was taken but it would later seem that she didn't quite catch it.
The new infraction rule says that the goalkeeper has to keep at least one foot at the goalline when the penalty is taken otherwise the keeper will be carded and the penalty-taker will get another go at it.
When Renard struck the penalty kick which hit the left post and was missed, Nnadozie had guessed the side right but was guilty of infraction. The referee was informed of the same by VAR officials and Renard got a second chance.
Penalty awarded following a VAR review 👇@WRenard hits post with first effort 👇June 17, 2019
The Nigerian players, all confused, gathered around the referee but she explained the situation to the players and Nnadozie got prepared to save the penalty once again. The referee once again explained the rule to the young goalkeeper but Renard was not going to miss the second time.
Even though Nnadozie guessed the side correct again, Renard drilled the ball into the right corner leaving the keeper with absolutely no chance.
Both the teams had a go at each other in the last 10 minutes but France walked away with all the three points. Nigeria coach Thomas Dennerby however labelled his players as "heroes".